A Civic Vision


Blog - Civic Centre#2

On Tuesday, Mrs Weir and I spent the day in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, apparently the 21st best place to live in Britain.

Whilst there I managed to pick up a copy of a book produced by the City Architect’s Department back in November 1968, about one of my favourite Newcastle buildings, namely the Civic Centre.

Sadly on the very same day we were visiting news filtered through that the City Council have plans for it, plans that the Twentieth Century Society object to in the “strongest possible terms”, believing they would cause “substantial harm” to what it describes as “one of the most important pieces of post-war civic architecture in the country”.

The fact that the plans proposed by the Council include “the construction of meeting pods and a café” perhaps tells you all you need to know about those responsible for looking after this building. As Adrian Jones (aka @jonestheplanner) says over on his blog “the Civic Centre reminds us of the sort of civic vision and initiative that cities like Newcastle used to have”.

Sadly it looks like some people need reminding of that more than others.

Blog - Civic Centre#3

Foggy Notion


Blog - Foggy Notion#1

In an attempt to subvert the trend elsewhere I’m going to try to increase the frequency of my blog posts by embracing the concept of brevity.

So hello from the impossibly murky North East where Mrs Weir and I have been enwrapped in thick fog for the last few days.

Blog - Foggy Notion#2

On Friday night, Magoo are celebrating their 25th birthday at the Norwich Art’s Centre, and whilst there’s always more to be said in looking forwards rather than backwards, it seems a more than appropriate point to briefly return to a moment that is now a somewhat indistinct memory.

Back in a time when the world seemed a slightly less finite concept, I attempted to forge a life in the world of light entertainment looking after the “telephones and typewriters” for a band called Magoo.

To be frank I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Thankfully I don’t think the band were entirely clear what was going on either, so we kind of suited each other just fine for a while.

When I first started working with the band I only really had one goal, and that was to record a session for John Peel. I made a vague deal with them that I’d help as much as I was able to, as long as when, or at that point probably more honestly if, they ever got to record a session for Peel I would be allowed to make a guest appearance.

So you can imagine what the 12 December 1995 meant to me, as that was the day Magoo travelled down to the BBC’s Maida Vale recording studios (number four from what I can recall) to record their debut session for the show.

As ever with this kind of event I don’t recollect much about the day, other than feeling wildly overawed and hugely out of place. After all, this was the place that almost every band I’d ever loved had come to record at some point. This was the place where Delia Derbyshire had laid out huge lengths of tape loops in the corridors to produce the theme tune to Dr Who for the Radiophonic Workshop. The BBC Symphony Orchestra even called it home.

And here we were.

Magoo recorded four songs that day, namely Baxter Preminger, Eye Spy, Goldwyn and last but not least Valley As A Whole. And it was in the middle of this last tune that the band got to make good on that earlier agreed deal. With a good understanding of my limitations as a musician I played just a single chord during the three minutes of treble-heavy racket – a hugely enjoyable chord mind, and one that will stay with me until little else does (if you’ve got things to do and people to see, my moment of infamy begins at the 3:02 mark and ends, well, quite quickly after that).

Here are three of songs from that first session, sadly my recording of Eye Spy seems to have gone missing in the intervening years. 

Of the three songs that still remain in my archives I have to admit to never having really liked Valley As A Whole, despite my appearance on it (contrarian to the last). I much prefer Goldwyn – which owes more than a little to the repetitive racket of the band Loop, and Baxter Preminger – which was always a favourite and remains so twenty plus years later.

(For reference the ‘bloke’ mentioned by Peel in the introduction to Valley As A Whole was probably me – I’d gone up to Leeds for Sound City (do they still do these?) in an attempt to learn about “telephones and typewriters” and bumped into him after one of the events – in my defence I don’t think I ever claimed I was a member of the band but to be honest all I can really remember about the conversation was that he’d been for dinner at Delia Smith’s the previous week. This probably says all you need to know about my ability to make the most of a situation.)


So come along on Friday if you can, Magoo are well deserving of your time and support and twenty-five years is a mark well worth celebrating.

Happy birthday Magoo!

Exhibition openings in my hometown are somewhat few and far between, so it’s pleasing that one such event last weekend was dedicated to a subject that has become an increasing obsession with me, namely the flatlands.

Of the six artists responding “to the idea of flatness” Rhona Fleming’s work was what I found most intriguing, with a number of abstract pieces featuring fragments of objects and ink sealed in resin. Christopher Skinner’s range of lino prints, detailing the telegraph poles that often appear the only sign of life in a otherwise empty land, were also highlights, as were Andrew Olley’s excellent photographs of the largely featureless fens and the architectural detritus of the industry of agriculture that inhabits them, (Andrew also scored extra points for featuring Ongar Hill in one of his chosen shots – which was always going to play well with me). 

Flatlands, the exhibition is on at the Greyfriars Art Space in King’s Lynn and is open until Saturday 29 July 2017, if you’re in the vicinity in the next week I’d recommend a visit.

Me Again


It’s been a while eh?

Have been struggling to be inspired and upbeat in the last couple of months – a variety of factors, most of which I have little or no control over. That said I do have (some) control over how I respond, so I’m back here to attempt to continue to accentuate the positive.

Back to Ongar Hill (again).

This time as a direct response to Tim Dee’s Into the Wind programme, recently shown on BBC4 – if you’ve not seen it go and watch it now, it’s easily one of best things that’s been broadcast on television this year.

In Into the Wind Tim walks from Guy’s Head, at the mouth of the River Nene, along the route of the Peter Scott Walk to stand on the edge of the Lincolnshire coast* and attempt to record the incoming wind.

“As I have grown old, even though I have liked most of the people I’ve talked to, I’ve become more and more keen on listening to the sound of the world after we’ve all shut up. This means going after wildtrack, the song of the Earth, for its own sake – wind, above all, pure wind. And Richard Alwyn, who directed Into the Wind, caught me at it. He asked where I might like to go for a walk and talk about the weather. I showed him my fluffy dog on a stick and said the Wash, that jaw-bite out of East Anglia, opening to the sea.

So I thought I’d try my hand at the same.

Obviously my kit isn’t in the same league as Tim’s, but that’s perhaps no great surprise given that he’s an experienced producer of radio for the BBC, and I’m not.

We walked in the opposite direction to the route followed in Into the Wind and eventually found the pathway that stretches across the marsh to the Inner Trial Bank, a peculiar man-made island (albeit that it’s not ordinarily an island) built in the early 1970s, as part of a now long defunct government research project. For a location so relatively close to the everyday it’s a wonderfully remote, disconnected place which I really can’t recommend visiting enough.

I have a sense I’ll be back (much) sooner than later.

*The pedant in me needs to point out that although Tim starts his walk in Lincolnshire he actually completes his recording in Norfolk  – an admittedly minor point, but as a Norfolk boy an important one.

Of The Grid


Although it’s true to say that the world wide web is home to all sorts of dullards and blowhards, it’s equally true that if you’re prepared to put the effort into seeking them out, there are more than enough individuals whose company is worth keeping.

Mr Richard Weston, who you may or may not know as @acejet170, is a man located firmly in the latter group, and is responsible for the very handsome piece of work pictured above.

An example of the Marber Grid in the wild.

Hopefully some of you will recognise it as a homage to Romek Marber’s famous grid, designed for his work with Penguin in the early 1960s, however if not now’s the time for you to investigate further.

Before you disappear off though, I have good news for those of you thinking that one of these wonderfully intriguing pieces of art, celebrating Poland’s finest, would suit your unfeasibly fashionable homestead, as Mr Weston is making them to order – and this is where to stake your claim. It’s also where you’ll find Richard’s blog, which to be honest you should probably be reading instead of this.

Bravo Mr A Jet170 – and thank you.